Based on Lawrence Block’s popular book series, ‘A Walk among the Tombstones’ is a solid thriller. The central character, Matthew Scudder, has previously appeared on screen in 1982’s ‘8 Million Ways to Die’. Portrayed by Jeff Bridges, the character’s cinematic debut didn’t register with that era’s audience. Hopefully this second big screen outing set in 1999 will do justice to a potentially long-running franchise.
Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is a former cop turned private eye. A recovering alcoholic, he constantly searches for challenging cases. When asked by local drug lord Kenny (Dan Stevens) to find those responsible for the kidnap and murder of his wife, Matthew reluctantly accepts. Searching for clues, he discovers the kidnappers have previous form with equally deadly consequences. With danger at every turn, Scudder’s life hangs in the balance as the hunt intensifies.
‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’ is unafraid in delving into dark spaces. Exploring ‘evil that men do’, Scudder doggedly survives in a grim world. His shady past matches the murky dealings of his clients adding to the constant atmosphere of dread. Whilst the story is occasionally prone to repetitive exposition, Scott Frank’s direction successfully conveys its’ grittiness. You receive a true sense of danger Scudder faces and the dodgy moral codes everyone lives by.
Despite a somewhat far-fetched conclusion, ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’ wouldn’t have worked without Neeson’s presence. He holds the movie together with a performance steeped in weary reality. Neeson has turned into a reliable mainstay of commercial movies with his newest role cementing this. He is aided well by his co-stars who embody their sleazy roles with ease. The cinematography of a pre- 21st Century New York effectively conjures a distant past continually haunting Scudder.
In spite of some short-comings, ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’ is a generally engaging thriller. Riding much on Neeson’s coat-tails, hopefully it builds towards further instalments of a frequently intriguing character.
Rating out of 10: 7
Memory often cheats with rose-coloured glasses often obscuring the truth. Movies like ‘Memento’ made a virtue of memory loss by telling gripping stories. Based on S.J. Watson’s novel ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ follows the same line. Attempting to spin a thrilling yarn, the way it uses the amnesia device is left wanting. Whilst having moments of inspiration, it is a pale imitator of better tales where memory is always subjective.
Christine (Nicole Kidman) wakes up next to a stranger. Claiming to be her husband, Ben (Colin Firth), Christine has no memory of him. Disturbed by her lack of memories, she receives treatment from Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong). Hoping to regain her full faculties, as each piece of her life returns, new questions arise. Becoming suspicious of those around her, Christine learns all is not as it appears as lies and deceptions entangle her life.
Clumsily directed by Rowan Joffe, ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ gives new meaning to mediocrity. Badly mis-cast and full of illogical plot holes, it falls under its self-inflicted burdens. You don’t believe in the characters due to an increasingly silly story and contrived atmospherics. Despite her predicament, Kidman’s character comes across as being really dumb with obvious clues ignored. This deflates any sympathy with the cast’s over-acting turning ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ into a bad cinematic pantomime.
‘Before I Go to Sleep’ has few good points with the cinematography being one. Effectively capturing the muddied world Christine tries to escape, it adds to the overall sense of danger. The orchestral score highlights this well making the outlandish climax appear better than it is. The flaws are many with this poor adaptation doing no favours to what has been a popular book.
A pot-boiler quickly going nowhere, ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ is less than scintillating. Offering evidence that a big-name cast can’t save a movie without a good script, the temptation to erase this one from the memory banks would be palatable.
Rating out of 10: 3